For the 180 children and 10 staff members who constitute Bome Primary School in Bamenda in the North West Region of Cameroon, going to the bathroom safely and privately is a luxury. As they do not have access to safe and private toilets, for the past 5 years, they instead have had to rely on an old, open dilapidated tent next to their school. Several students have fallen into the pit under the tent in their attempts to relieve themselves, and the adult staff members have no extra measures for privacy. Public defecation is not uncommon, and for those students and teachers who want privacy, they are forced to abandon their lessons to go home or they beg owners of nearby compounds to use their toilets.
Because of this lack of sanitation and proper hygiene, de-worming students has become a yearly plight. Cameroon native Assi Flaviurs, a development worker and the founder of Vicony’s Global Success World (VGSW), a local community self-help group that supports community welfare projects in the region, knew that de-worming treated the symptom but not the cause. He and three other volunteers set out to Bome Primary School with a mission—to construct a gender sensitive modern pit latrine and hand-washing facilities as well as educate the students on proper hygiene and sanitation.
“This project is unique in the sense that it aims at reaching primary school aged children and educating them about the importance of basic hygiene and sanitation, which culturally is not a priority to them and their communities,” says Flaviurs. “By engaging them at the primary levels I intend to mold their understanding of the importance of hygiene as well as help reduce the risk of diarrheal diseases, such as cholera.”
When COVID-19 hit Cameroon, it was clear to Flaviurs how significant the impact of his project was, as students who had no concept of the importance of hygiene were armed with the knowledge needed to keep themselves safe and clean. With a $995 grant from The Pollination Project, Flaviurs set up hand-washing facilities with the latrine. They have also been distributing face masks and hand sanitizer and estimate they will have directly impacted more than 3,000 children.
Though COVID-19 has changed the way VGSW has been running, causing Flaviurs to limit field visits, for example, he knows that the education and facilities he was able to provide are indelible: “The outcome of this project is an increased awareness among primary school students in Bome of the importance of proper hygiene and sanitation, as well as an increased ability to act on that awareness.”
TPP thanks Assi for his dedication to the children of Cameroon and for his foresight in recognizing that regular de-worming programs were not effective at keeping children safe and that, instead, it was important to treat the root causes of the problem.
Assi is a wonderful example of TPP’s belief that there is value in keeping power and agency at the local level. We recognize that individuals carry a remarkable power to use their talent and passion to shape the world for good, and that those who are closest to the problem itself are the ones who are the most invested in seeking solutions.
To support Assi and his work with VGSW, visit https://www.vgsw.org